As stated in the first half of this overview, Police Story brought a new realism to the depiction of police officers. However, that did not mean the show ever skimped on the excitement one expected from cop shows of the era. In fact, Police Story frequently found a clever way to mix the staples of the traditional cop show – chases, stakeouts, gunplay – with a complex understanding of cop psychology and practices that gave those traditional elements a new level of dramatic stakes.
With that in mind, here’s another six episodes worth seeing from the second season of Police Story. Even the ones that focus more on procedure than psychology add unique little nuances that make them worth watching.
Captain Hook: ’70s t.v. regular David Birney gets a memorable showcase in this episode, which focuses on the troubles that handicapped officers face. Officer Waldron (Birney) loses his hand in a situation with a package bomb. He works hard to retrain himself for a return to the field but discovers the brass aren’t eager to have him out there. The script effectively mixes underdog story elements with a realistic portrayal of the physical and mental traumas that an officer handicapped in the field faces. Birney does stellar work and gets ace support from Kim Darby as a sympathetic woman who falls in love with him and Richard Egan as a handicapped lieutenant who aids the officer in his fight to return to active duty.
Incident In The Kill Zone: This episode reconfigures The Caine Mutiny for the police department: a group of skilled, dutiful S.W.A.T. officers find themselves in peril when they are put under the guidance of “King” Sherman (James Farentino), a new leader with a lack of experience, a big ego and bad leadership instincts. Jan-Michael Vincent is the defacto leader within the officer group and finds himself pushed to the point of mutiny. This is a great episode where the dramatic elements are as punchy as the S.W.A.T.-oriented action scenes and there’s also a daring message about the disengagement between the department’s bureaucracy and the concerns of the men in the line of fire. It also provides a good reminder of what a fine actor Vincent was – and Farentino is equally impressive as the overconfident would-be leader who cracks under pressure.
Headhunter: the Internal Affairs department gets its own spotlight here. Don Murray plays Stiles, a sergeant in the I.A. who is put in the difficult position of investigating a veteran officer (Howard Keel) accused of indecent exposure while drunk. Said officer gets fired but Stiles decides to investigate the case again when the witness (Michael Anderson Jr.) confesses to a murder. This episode is unique in how it shows the complexity of the internal affairs gig, one that weighs heavily on the cop who has to pass judgment on their fellow cops. Murray plays his role with conviction and Keel brings gravitas to the role of an aging, troubled cop who finds himself in the crosshairs. The script also moves into unique psychological territory in its second half as Stiles explores the disordered mind of the troubled witness.
The Man In The Shadows: this episode starts in traditional Police Story mode: veteran officer Dolan (Robert Forster) takes on a new partner in younger officer Cruz (Richard Yniguez), prompting an easygoing debate over how to deal with informants as they try to pick up the trail of major drug dealer rumored to be moving into local narcotics traffic. Things take a grimmer turn as the two officers face pressure from their hard-driving supervisor (John Ireland) and deal with the crafty, sometimes lethal moves of their opponent. It goes to some dark places in its final act, bringing in a noir-ish fatalism that Forster is perfectly equipped to handle. There’s also an interesting final scene that suggests there is an ongoing cycle in police work. Yniguez does fine work here, particularly in the final scene, and Barbara Luna is likeable as a top informant.
War Games: one of the most enjoyable things about watching Police Story is the array of cool ’70s character actors that pop up in each show. This particular episode is a goldmine in that regard. Marjoe Gortner and Michael Parks go undercover to weed out white supremacists trafficking in illegal military weapons in their private gun club – and said gun club includes Neville Brand, John Davis Chandler, Mills Watson, John Quade and Murray Hamilton, who steals the episode as the wealthy paranoiac benefactor funding the group (he greets the cops by shooting a machine gun near them!). You even get Robert Ginty and Dick Miller in bit roles. As for the episode itself, it’s more action-oriented than usual and blends its tough, anti-racism theme with equally tough machismo from its cast.
The Witness: Don Meredith returns as Jameson in an episode that focuses on the robbery squad dealing with a string of pharmacy robberies as well as a motorcyclist thief called “Easy Rider” who specializes in robbing bars. It benefits from a tight script that blends action, police work and some humor about the day-to-day lives of the cops, including one who has a cold he can’t shake and another one who has trouble getting to work on time. Editor-turned-director Edward Abroms gives it crackerjack pacing that’s as good as any cop feature film you car to mention – and Meredith is a fun lead, with nice support work from Michael Cole as his cold-addled partner and James McEachin as an amusingly mouthy robbery victim who offers to be a witness in court.